2 Samuel 19:41-43 – Jealousy Not Dealt With Is Jealousy That Will Destroy

Posted: August 11, 2018 in 10-2 Samuel

2 Samuel 19:41-43
An Argument Over the King

Jealousies not dealt with properly are jealousies that will destroy. Just look at our nation’s history. Almost from the beginning of our nation, there was a long-standing distrust between the northern colonies and the southern colonies. This distrust was more than just the seminal issue of slavery (the morally reprehensible issue that it is). It goes far deeper than that. Southern states were populated typically more by former English rural tenant farmers (not the landed gentry) and by the Scotch and Irish peasants, all of which who suffered under the English caste system and of English oppression of Scotland and Ireland. Thus, in America, they created able to shed themselves of the long-established caste system of England (and Europe as a whole).

The north with its access to more and different raw materials and simply more people coming there developed more wealth more quickly. More favorable summer weather helped keep diseases down and populations grew rapidly. Large cities began to emerge. And generally, the northern colonies were settled by the wealthier and more educated citizens. By the late 17th century, the economies of many northern states had moved away from farming to industry. A lot of people in the North worked and lived in large cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. The southern states, however, had maintained a large farming economy and this economy was based on slave labor. While the North no longer needed slaves, the South relied heavily upon slaves for their way of life.

The idea of states’ rights was not new to the Civil War. Since the Constitution was first written there had been arguments about how much power the states should have versus how much power the federal government should have. The southern states felt that the federal government was taking away their rights and powers. The reason that our form of government is so unique is because of this issue. The northern states were already vastly more populated than the southern states by the time of the Constitutional Convention. Thus, the southern states were highly worried about any democratic form of government where population size would determine policy. By the sheer disproportion of population between the North and the South, the southern states feared that complete democracy would find them returning to the old ways of England where things would be forced down their throat and just have to accept it. Thus, the bicameral form of legislature was adopted. The Senate to give each state an equal voice and the House to give each state a voice based on size of population. The electoral college system for electing our President traces its roots to this distrust issue over size vs. voice in government.

Compromises were reached but the issue of the status of slaves was not solved at all and the distrust of the north by the south continued to fester. Fundamental ideological differences developed. To the South, it was the North forcing its will on the South. To the North, the South was backward in its thinking on the value of human life. To the South, the economy was dependent on slave labor. To the North, in the absence of an agragrian economy, it was simply a human rights issue from afar. This issue of self-determination so incredibly important to Southern political movers and shakers led us to the civil war. But the deep-seated distrust of the South toward the more populous north and fear of losing control of its political destiny made slavery the issue from which there was no return. Even after the civil war, the South was resistant to federally mandated programs all the way up through the 1960s. The South has had a jealousy issue of its big northern brothers forcing their will upon them that did not die with the end of the civil war. With the explosion of industry and the population migration to the South since 1960s, we see an easing of Southern jealousy toward the North but its still there. Just look at an electoral map when we hold presidential elections. Republican political philosophy for half a century or more now has been “less government, lower taxes”. That idea plays well in the South even in the 21st century. In the South, government, especially the federal government, is seen as an enemy to self-determination and there is still a sense in the South even with its more diverse population now that the northern states want big government and have government solve all social ills.

These are jealousies that date all the way back to pre-colonial migration from the United Kingdom to the new world. Social caste systems in England and its conquered lands of Scotland and Ireland play a role in the history of the United States and the divisions between the North and South. Jealousies started in England between classes of people spilled over to the new world. Differences in climate and natural resources added to the differing developments of the colonies. The issue of slavery thus became the backbreaker of philosophical differences between the north and the south. Jealousies not dealt with properly are jealousies that will destroy. These jealousies have caused friction between the north and south for centuries.

Jealousies have been part of family existence, it seems, since the beginning of time. Big brother vs. little brother. Little brothers jealous of the big brother for the things he has. Little brothers jealous of big brothers for the things they get to do first. Big brothers jealous of little brothers for how the little brother seems to get pacified by the parents to just get them to shut up.

In today’s passage, we see the deep seeded jealousies between the southern and northern tribes of Israel. Jealousies here fracture the stability of Israel. David and Solomon are able to hold the country together for another 80 years or so from this point, but ultimately the jealousies displayed here in this passage will rip the country apart. Further, this is not the beginning of jealousies between the northern and southern tribes of Israel. It is just the latest episode. With our own history in the United States in mind and how jealousies can destroy, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 19:41-43, now:

41 But all the men of Israel complained to the king, “The men of Judah stole the king and didn’t give us the honor of helping take you, your household, and all your men across the Jordan.”

42 The men of Judah replied, “The king is one of our own kinsmen. Why should this make you angry? We haven’t eaten any of the king’s food or received any special favors!”

43 “But there are ten tribes in Israel,” the others replied. “So we have ten times as much right to the king as you do. What right do you have to treat us with such contempt? Weren’t we the first to speak of bringing him back to be our king again?” The argument continued back and forth, and the men of Judah spoke even more harshly than the men of Israel.

In this passage, we see that, although Israel was united kingdom, it was still made up of 12 tribes. These tribes often had difficulty agreeing on the goals of the nation as a whole. Tribal jealousies had originally kept Israel from conquering the entirety of the Promised Land (see the book of Joshua) and now tribal jealousies were threatening the stability of David’s reign. David’s return to Jerusalem was marked by the quarreling factions of Northern and Southern Israel, each being jealous of the king’s favor. There was something in that situation which is reminiscent of the quarrels initiated by the tribe of Joseph, first against Gideon, and later against Jephthah, the latter erupting in a bitter war that destroyed forty-two thousand of the tribe of Joseph (Judges 8:1-3; 12:1-6).

This tribal jealousy and bitterness marred what otherwise would have been a happy ending to the rebellion. A great catastrophe like Absalom’s rebellion could not end without leaving profound effects. Here we see one of those effects. The long standing mistrust between northern Israel and southern Israel, again broke into the open; and the fierce words that followed eventually issued in the divided kingdom. That the origin of their mutual animosity reached all the way back to Jacob, Leah and Rachel.

What can we learn for our personal lives as Christians from our own nation’s history and from the history of Israel? I think it comes down to pride. One of the principles of democratic government is that our competing self-wills will lead us toward a centrist set of actions and the good of the overall country will prevail. However, when people fail to yield their pride and want what they want and when they want it, jealousies begin. Pride leads us to jealousies. Pride leads nations to rip themselves apart. Pride leads us to jealousies of others. Jealousy leads us to fight against them just because its them. Jealousy leads to gossip and back-stabbing. Jealousy leads to conflict. Jealousy leads to words being said from which we cannot return. Jealousy comes from pride. Pride keeps us from admitting we are wrong (just like the South in admitting that slavery was wrong, just like the northern tribes of Israel getting uptight to the point of splitting Israel into two countries eventually that made both kingdoms weaker, just like two siblings who fight like cats and dogs all their lives). Pride keeps us sticking to our guns no matter the consequence. Pride keeps us from seeking peace with others. Pride keeps us from resolving differences in ways that are constructive for both parties. Pride breeds jealousy. Jealousy not dealt with is jealousy that will destroy.

Amen and Amen.

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